Steelhead and Atlantic Salmon Flys [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Steelhead and Atlantic Salmon Flys

11-20-2001, 04:53 PM
Vast majority of the Steelhead patterns are 'spiders,' etc., with little resemblence to Atlantic Salmon patterns. Does anyone use these beautiful things for Steelhead fishing? If so does any particular pattern have more success than others?

11-20-2001, 11:16 PM
Every time I've tied a classic mixed wing I've been unable to get them wet never mind fish them :rolleyes:

I've come close by incorporating techniques learned from AS patterns into steelie flies, but with all due respect the same frugality that converted most working AS flies to hairwings in contemporary times (noticed in both North America and Europe) turns my tying focus back to the least fanfare at the vise when tying working flies for a day on the river.

My pet theory is that the exploration of north america by settlers with flyfishing pedigrees gave birth to a new era in trout fly tying - from Carries classic streamers and the hornberg to midges and mayflies as the frontier reached the west. Hoppers, sofa pillows, even chernobyl ants appeared as part of this explosion of new experiments.

Then as the frontier hit the west coast where the pacific tides swell to bring 5 species of salmon and the ultimate trout into the dreams of anglers, the original intent of the classic salmon fly melded with the practicality of the american trout fly to give birth to the steelhead fly.

Among those that persisted thru the ages without much change were the Spey flies. The black heron hasn't changed a whisker since it's origins hundreds of years ago in Scotland. Still a go to fly in my box.

On the other end of the spectrum is the USS enterprise or the disco skater, the chernobyl ant of the steelhead genre.

But Syd Glasso bridged history with his perfection of the Spey fly not to mention the creation of the Sol Duc, Quillayute, and other matched hackle variations on the theme. His work tying the classics is peerless, showcased in the Bates Atlantic Salmon Fishing and Flies book. In fact he and Bates swapped flies. Not too shabby for an elementary school principal from Forks Washington! He's my hero.

To answer your question, no I personally have never fished mixed wings in steelhead streams. I guess I am satisfied chasing steelhead with the patterns I've developed over the years, or those I've learned from friends or gained from tiers of the past. One of my favorites is a spider variation of Knudsen's tied with a sedge pupa body and palmered with wood duck flank, but most of my flies are not tied in the round for whatever reason.

I think the classic mixed wings would work great though. For me it's just a matter of how much work I am willing to go thru vs. how much more effective they would be than standard patterns. If it were guaranteed to make steelhead move to the fly, I would fish them all the time. Great experiment for the spring native run.

I'll defer to others who may have tried already...

11-20-2001, 11:31 PM
Great answer. Brought back a ton of memories. My 'mentors' in Washington were Sid, Harry Lamire (think I've screwed up the spelling of Harry's last name), Ken McCloud and the rest (Steelhead Trout Club of Washington). Times were good and 'pre-bolt (also after that ...... well, 4 letter words are not allowed on the board).

These fellows took a 19-23 year old guy aside and taught him the 'real' how and why. Ken, when he was in his 70's could take a 9' rod and actually cast a large dry 80 to 90 feet. Impressive then and in memory, even more impressive now as a two hander.

Harry, how to run a line, feel the fish, it was magic. Are there folks like this still around, you bet. Think of Rich Henry (still guides on the Williamson and Chetco Rivers - full Indian fellow and one of the most wonderful people you could ever have God's Grace to meet). Never teach your wife to drive, or fish.

Asked Rich to take Joan for a trip or two (can't remember the exchange but worth 1000 times the price) and "teach" her steelhead fishing (drift rods at that time). He had her humming aloud sypmphony music to catch the flow of the music/ river/ drift. Magic, just magic. A master of masters in action.

Life is, and was good.

11-21-2001, 01:02 AM

I primarily fish "spey" style flies, however, if my mood is so inclined, I will knot on a full dress salmon fly.

If I fish full dress, married wing flies, I normally choose a Jock Scott or Silver Doctor with the Doctor being 100% historical recipe and the Scott only subbing Indian Crow and Toucan (Materials too rare in my tying box to lose in the field).

I do fish Dee strip wing flies quite a bit for spring fish, favorite patterns being the Dunt, Balmoral, white winged Ackroyd, and Tri-Colour.

All in all, I'd say I spend less than 10% of my steelhead time fishing these flies.

On the other hand, for my annual foray into Quebec, I fish full dress flies 100% of the time.


11-21-2001, 01:38 AM
What is the effectiveness of the full dressed Atlantic Salmon and Stripped Wing Dee flies when comapred to your everyday Marabou Speys, GPs and Hairwings?

11-21-2001, 02:14 AM

I firmly believe that the only fly pattern that catches fish is the one tied onto your leader!!! I have found zero difference in effectiveness, they just take longer to tie.

When fishing the Skagit or Sauk with a type 3 tip, I will fish Dee strips exclusively as they don't get hung up nearly as often as on a type 6. I hate to stick these flies in rocks, or damage the hook beyond use.

For my summer fish I knot on a few original spey flies, tied in more traditional steelhead colors, along with the old classic patterns. Since I fish these flies the most, I catch most of my fish on these flies!

For christmas Mr. Claus is delivering a brand new cane spey rod, 12' rated for a 6/7 line. This coming summer I will have a couple of custom silk lines, one braided on a midspey taper and the other based on the cortland spey DT configuration. When in the mood, I will fish this rod with a homemade flyreel, gut leader and gut loop blind eye traditional spey flies.

Fun is what you make it...